Hats off to University College Cork, Cork Cycling Campaign and the Cork Environmental Forum for devising and running the wonderful Socio-Cycle: Cycling Symposium last Friday and Saturday (03 & 04 Feb 2023)! It was just what the doctor ordered after almost three years of mainly non in-person cycling advocacy (and academic) gatherings in Ireland.
The lead organiser was Dr. Eileen Hogan from the School of Applied Social Studies in UCC, and her team packed quite an amount into the symposium which lasted a day and a half – with formal sessions taking place in Cork City Hall and in the gorgeous Hub building in UCC.
Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in a special #IBIKEBop on the streets of Cork (see video below), and then catch up more informally for food and drinks afterwards.
Cyclist.ie was out in force with over a dozen active members of our network giving papers and talks – and with many more attending as delegates and contributing to the discussions.
The keynote lecture in City Hall was delivered by Dr. Meredith Glaser (pictured below) from Urban Cycling Institute, University of Amsterdam. She gave a wide ranging presentation on the multi-pronged and multi-dimensional processes associated with demotorising and rehumanising our cities, based both on her studies and her lived experiences of Dutch cities. Her descriptions of the people filled – rather than motor vehicle filled – streets in Amsterdam near the school she lived beside reminded us all of why we are doing what we are doing! Plenty of food for thought in her talk which was followed by a long and lively Q&A.
Meredith’s talk was followed by a Policy Fishbowl, which the organisers described as “an interactive discussion informed by participants’ cycling experiences”. It was a really great format in which a brief pitch on a cycling topic was followed by rapid fire contributions, with delegates swapping between the main audience and a revolving panel – and all happening with the prominent count-down clock keeping us in check! We will be robbing this format for a future event in Cyclist.ie, we are sure!
The topics and questions explored in the fishbowl were:
– firstly, how can we harness public consultation to deliver the best possible solution?
– secondly, should cycle training be made mandatory in schools?
– thirdly, how do we ensure that future governments preserve the 20% allocation for walking and cycling from the transport capital budget?
On the point of cycle training, Cyclist.ie maintains that we need curricular reform at primary level to mandate it in the same way as we have for swimming.
The sessions in UCC on Saturday ran from 9am until 4.30pm with a wonderfully diverse array of topics covered from multiple disciplinary perspectives. We highlight here the contributions of some members of Cyclist.ie.
Mairéad Forsythe, Chair of the Board of Dublin Cycling Campaign CLG / Cyclist.ie (pictured below – and in blue in the policy fishbowl above!), explored the topic of lower speed limits in urban areas and their role in increasing the numbers of people cycling. She highlighted just some of the work that the Love 30 group has spearheaded in recent years, and brought us up to speed on where the campaign is to make 30km/h the default speed limit in built-up areas.
Mairéad Forsythe from Love 30 (Photo Credit – TBC)
Meanwhile, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, National Cycling Coordinator with Cyclist.ie and An Taisce, explored the topic of where cycling advocates’ energies should best be targeted in the coming years. He stressed the need for us to focus on capacity building, and on fundraising in particular, so that Cyclist.ie can grow into a much stronger outfit and better leverage the amazing volunteering energies and skills of our network of members. This is what our counterparts on the Continent have done in recent years.
Damien Ó Tuama showing the extent of Cyclist.ie’s growing network of groups (Photo credit – Siobhán McNamara)
Jo Sachs Eldridge from the Cyclist.ie Executive Committee / Leitrim Cycling Festival gave two talks on Saturday. The first, drawing on the ‘Emergent Strategy’ ideas of Adrienne Maree Brown, examined the topic of how can pro-cycling activism become more impactful; while at the end of day – in a packed plenary session! – Jo spoke about the “Cycology of Change”. Both talks whetted our appetites and we look forward to debating the points and questions she raised in another forum very soon!
Clara Clark from Cycling Without Age spoke about “Cycling Without Age: The Right to Wind in your Hair”. The key point was the exponential growth of the take-up for trishaws nationwide (60 to date, with more on order), and the benefits to passengers. Many of the recent trishaw sponsors are local authorities placing them for community-based use. This demands better safe cycling infrastructure to accommodate all types of non-standard cycles: Infrastructure = Accessibility. There needs to be greater liaison with the LA Active Travel officers to ensure this will happen.
Clara Clark from Cycling Without Age (Photo Credit – Dr. Eileen Hogan)
It is well worth watching this “Inclusive Bike Scheme – Coastal Mobility Route” video produced by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council if you haven’t already seen it. It shows the inclusive nature of high quality cycling infrastructure, especially when used in combination with the CWA trishaws.
Rebecca Wogan from Dublin Cycling Campaign’s Executive Committee spoke about her own research, which covered “Crowdsourced Cycling Data Applications to Estimate Noise Pollution Exposure during Urban Cycling”. This followed on from her recent presentation to a Dublin Cycling Campaign public meeting.
Conor Buckley, Chair of Limerick Cycling Campaign, spoke about successfully campaigning to get targets included in the final / published version of the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (LSMATS) and the importance of unifying these targets in transport strategies across the country. He also discussed the importance of independently monitoring and reporting on targets to measure the return on the significant investment currently being made on infrastructure. In short, it is not enough just to make sure funding is spent!
The above overview just scrapes the surface of what was delved into (mainly by Cyclist.ie speakers) at what was a top class conference. It was a pleasure to hear so many informative talks from academics and campaigners based in Ireland, all of whom are thinking seriously about low carbon mobility. Additionally though, there were two excellent speakers tuned in from afar, with the technology bringing them right into the room and allowing for quality conversations and Q&A.
Firstly, Professor Peter Cox – now based in the Rachel Carson Institute near Munich and well known in cycling academic circles – gave a keynote address entitled “Care, Commons, and Uncontrollability: Developing Habits for Anthropocene Citizenship”. His talk engaged with a number of concepts linked to the destructive ways of 20th century modernism (the results of which are covered in the IPCC 6th Assessment Report), how the system of automobility colonises travel spaces and encloses “the commons of road space”, and how we notice the world more when on a bicycle. A lot of food for thought in his paper. We look forward very much to the publication of his book on this topic so we can dig into his ideas properly!
Secondly, Dr. Léa Ravensbergen, Assistant Professor, School of Earth, Environment & Society, McMaster University in Toronto, spoke about “Fostering Equitable Cycling Cities: Considering Gender and Cycling Through a Mobility Justice Framework”. She explored some of the main hypotheses which seek to explain the gender gap in everyday cycling, before unpacking the important concept of mobility justice. It was another thought provoking session, which generated many questions from the delegates.
Both of these talks added greatly to the symposium.
As well as talks, there were videos played including a lovely one from Cork Cycling Festival shown in a packed Shtepps Theatre.
There was so much else that stimulated us at the UCC conference, that we will be thinking about the topics over the coming weeks and months and beyond. We might even post another article on the symposium quite soon, pointing to some of the other fine speakers and presentations that we heard. It’s simply not possible to do them all justice in this short article here!
Cyclist.ie sends its hearty congratulations to all of the organisers and contributors. We look forward to meeting them again soon and to continuing the conversations.